[By Esha Harkisandas]
Not everyone who wanders is lost. Sometimes you have to wander to find, to go through a process of self- discovery. As cliched as it sounds, the best soul- searching, insights into what you’re made of and what’s truly important only happen when you travel solo.
I’ve been travelling by myself from the age of 18. My first solo trip was to Europe. I remember being this diffident teenager way out of my comfort zone, going through the good days and bad, but discovering that each day was different and exciting.
The seed to travel alone was sown within me by the end of that trip. It was thrilling and exciting and I gained a sense of pride in figuring it all out by myself. I’ve realised over various trips that though I may be alone, I’m actually never really lonely.
One the longer solo trips I’ve been on was to the Himalayas, after I’d quit my high stress job with a law firm on an impulse, wanting to just travel. I vividly recall that first morning in Bhuntar, feeling the cold mountain air on my way to Kasol. The sight of snow covered mountains and the smell of pine trees were a far cry from the suffocating office.
So great was my excitement to be on this trip that I was comfortable and at peace even on long, crowded bus rides. There were no complaints, no discomfort, no hesitation to eat at seemingly unhygienic places or grumbling about public toilets. I was happy, and mountains seemed to be bringing out a more accepting and calmer side of me.
There were times on the trip and on the trek in Uttarakhand when I was required to push myself physically and mentally. Through moments of self-doubt, I reminded myself that I had to just keep going, and I would eventually reach the next campsite.
The feeling of finally reaching Roopkund after a long walk on snow was magical. Next stop during the trip was Ladakh. After I had gotten over the long journey by road, the Ladakh magic started to enchant me. I met the most amazing people, and hours passed in long conversations. I felt like I belonged there and never wanted to leave. Soon I had an active social life in Leh!
The Markha Valley trek was a personal triumph. I felt emotionally and physically weak. I did not want to put myself through an arduous trek. As difficult as it was, when I decided to stick on, my perception changed completely. I had the best time on the trek and made some great friends. I also trekked to 5150 meters, my highest so far, and was ecstatic about that!
At the end of 60 days, I reflected back on my trip and travelling and wondered why I love travelling. It wasn’t all about the pristine landscapes and beautiful weather, it was also because there was a certainty of change.
A good day was temporary, so I would soak it all in and live fully for the moment. A bad bus ride was bound to get over at some point and a bad mood would tide over soon. A chance acquaintance, a good book, a great conversation, chocolate momos or just uninterrupted Internet were examples of the little joys that would turn the day around!
I introspected and realised that life is exactly like this too. There are good times and bad times, curve balls thrown at you at every point but it is our over obsessive and reactionary nature that gives colour to the things around us.